Substance use disorders are impacting veterans
Published 10:01 am Wednesday, May 24, 2023
On Memorial Day, millions of American families honor the memory of the men and women who died serving the U.S. military. Outside of this day, we must continue supporting those veterans who made it home but are fighting a new battle.
Many veterans in Louisiana and across the nation struggle with substance use disorder, mental health issues or suicide ideation. In Louisiana are over 270,000 veterans.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that across the nation, over 3.9 million veterans have a substance use disorder or mental illness. In addition, substance use disorders significantly increase suicidality among veterans ages 18 and older.
“Many causative factors lead to substance use and mental health issues among veterans. Recognizing them and early prevention can help save lives,” said Michael Leach of Addicted.org.
Many veterans struggle with adjusting to civilian life. Common difficulties include financial hardships, difficulty finding employment, accessing benefits and lack of civilian friendships. Veterans are also at a higher risk of experiencing mental and emotional health concerns.
Also, untreated trauma is common, easily developing into mental health problems. This directly impacts all areas of life. It also leads to substance use as a means of coping.
Veterans can also face barriers when accessing treatment and support. This can include cost and insurance gaps. Many communities face inadequate funding, and veterans have limited access to treatment in rural locations.
Fortunately, there are some solutions and ways families can help. Besides the VA-Facility locator provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, other options include the following:
- The Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs provides resources and support;
- Helpful hotlines include the Veteran Crisis Line, 1-800-273-8255, and the Lifeline for Vets, 1-888-777-4443;
- SAMHSA has a treatment facility locator where veterans can find programs for addiction and mental health specific to their needs;
Family members can also make a huge difference and provide support. Speak to them openly and honestly about their substance use and express concern. Help them find treatment. Be patient and show compassion for what they are going through. Remember, substance use and mental health disorders are treatable.
It takes families and communities to come together to help veterans who are struggling. Too many battle these issues in silence, and unfortunately, this often leads to suicide ideation.
Memorial Day is a time to honor the memory of those we have lost in the nation’s wars. We must also never lose sight of those struggling at home who need our help.
Veronica Raussin is a community outreach coordinator for Addicted.org, passionate about spreading awareness of the risks and dangers of alcohol & drug use.